Great Falls Symphony cancels remainder of season due to COVID-19

The Great Falls Symphony has canceled the remainder of its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That includes the main series concert, Gloria on April 25, as well as Chamber Music Series concerts Native Views on April 17 and April 19, and Synthesis on May 15 and May 17.

The choir concert, Jubilee, which had already been rescheduled, will be postponed until the 2020-2021 season.

All tickets to Jubilee will be honored for the new date and time, which has not yet been determined, according to the symphony.

The cancellation, while necessary due to the public health concerns, is “a big disappointment,” said Grant Harville, music director, in a video update.

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“We’re here to make Great Falls a better place to live. usually, we do that by putting on concerts and education programs. So we find ourselves in kind of a strange position where we need to help make Great Falls a better place to live by not doing any of those things,” Harville said. “But the mission continues.”

Though concerts are canceled for the remainder of the season, the symphony is still finding ways to provide music education and cultural enrichment for the community.

Many of the symphony’s musicians are using Zoom, a web-based video conferencing program, to continue teaching music lessons to their students, but so far, there isn’t a good way for them to conduct productive virtual music rehearsals, according to Hillary Rose Shepherd, executive director of the symphony association.

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Since the symphony had to cancel the youth matinee and 15 elementary school shows, Shepherd said the principal musicians are putting together instrument demonstration videos for use on the Great Falls Public School’s remote learning page “so that fourth grade students can have a virtual introduction to instrumental music. Our hope is that this will help students get inspired to choose an instrument to play in fifth grade.”

Musicians are also working on creating performance videos they’ll share on Facebook, Shepherd said.

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I’m sure that our community will love the opportunity to see them perform from their homes. We do not have video recordings of our past symphony performances, but there are a lot of other amazing and free resources out there to take a look at.”

For now, the symphony is partnering with other community agencies and planning for next season and “looking forward with great joy to the next time that we can be all together again,” Harville said.

The symphony association was able to perform the majority of their scheduled concerts and was able to hold their annual fundraising event, Black Tie and Blue Jeans.

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Hillary Rose Shepherd, executive director of the symphony association, said that they’ve had to take protective measures for our musicians, staff and community which resulted in the cancellation of the Youth Matinee, a field trip event for fourth-graders where they get to experience a fun and educational “Introduction to the Orchestra” concert at the Mansfield Theater.

The association also canceled this semester’s Youth Orchestra performance, two Chamber Music Series concerts, 15 elementary school shows and one of our main series concerts and postponed the choir concert for sometime next season, Shepherd said.

For the symphony, there are a lot of financial unknowns. The concerts are canceled, but the association is continuing to pay staff and core musicians “so that their lives aren’t adversely affected,” Shepherd said.

Ticket sales to symphony events cover about one-third of the annual operational expenses and more than 60 percent of expenses fall into the payroll category, Shepherd said.

“We rely heavily on donations in order to continue operations and to sustain our staff and musicians. We do our best to be prudent with our spending so that we can prepare for a fluctuating economy, but this type of shut down really is unprecedented for all of us. To the best of my knowledge, we have never had to cancel a symphony concert before,” Shepherd said.

The association is about 90 percent done with planning for next season and the timeline for getting that brochure printed hasn’t changed much. Shepherd said it should be arriving at the homes of subscribers sometime in May.

“We are still working hard to make Broadway a reality for next season, and as of right now, we are set to reveal a pretty stellar lineup for the 2020 -2021 season in the next couple of months,” Shepherd said.

If you have tickets to the canceled concerts, you have a few options, according to the association:

  • Donate your ticket back to the Great Falls Symphony for a tax-deductible donation. A majority of the Great Falls Symphony’s budget comes from donors in our community. Your donation will help secure the continued success of the Great Falls Symphony during this difficult time. This option is available only if you purchased your ticket(s) through the Great Falls Symphony office.
  • Return your ticket(s) via mail at P.O. Box 1078, Great Falls, MT, 59403 and request Concert of Choice voucher(s) for the full value of your ticket(s). Vouchers can be applied towards any Silver Series or Chamber Music Series concert of equivalent value during the 2020-2021 season. This option is available only if you purchased your ticket(s) through the Great Falls Symphony office.
  • If you are unable to donate your ticket(s) and you are unlikely to attend a future performance, you may request a refund. Tickets that were purchased through the Mansfield Box Office will need to request a refund through the box office at 406-455-8514. Tickets that were purchased through the Great Falls Symphony office will need to return ticket(s) via mail at P.O. Box 1078, Great Falls, MT, 59403 with a request for a refund.

“The cancellations of our concerts pose not only a loss of culture in our city, but also creates financially damaging losses for the Great Falls Symphony,” according to symphony newsletter. “We ask that you consider a donation in lieu of a voucher or refund. We are deeply grateful to your continued support and understanding during this time.”

The symphony can be reached via email, which is preferred, at gfsadmin@gfsymphony.org or leave a message via phone at 406-453-4102. There may be a delay in responses since staff are working from their homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and follow the governor’s stay at home directive.